Leveling Up

Leveling Up

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Wedding season. Guests everywhere are buying new outfits, booking hotels and wrapping gifts. Really, weddings are a joint financial venture – one of many you will face as a couple. So, how do you handle shared finances? Whether your plus one is a new relationship, a long- term love or your spouse, we have tips on how to nurture your financial relationship at every level of commitment.

Level 1: Facebook Official – You’ve defined the relationship but aren’t quite ready to put your finances on the table. When you’re just starting out, money matters tend to be about splitting discretionary costs like dinners out, entertainment and transportation. Finance apps like Venmo make cost sharing easy by transfer or requesting cash in seconds. For some couples, apps also help keep things even, avoiding the see-saw – “I’ll get this one; you get the next one” – effect and the need for split dinner checks (sensible reminder: tip on the subtotal).

Level 2: Consciously Coupled –  The money talk has been had and you are starting to talk about your future buuuuut, you’re still not ready to take on a joint mortgage. Planning for your future together while maintaining financial autonomy can be made easier with shared bank account features. Certain banks provide shared accounts that allow each account holder to maintain an individual account with a separate account linked to them. A shared account is a great way to contribute to common goals or shared expenses and, more significantly, opens the discussion about spending priorities. Just exercise some caution here – shared account funds are equally accessible, so if things don’t continue down the road of ‘happily ever after,’ the money in the shared account is up for grabs by your ex. So, deposit monthly to the shared account and budget appropriately.

Level 3: It’s Official – What’s yours is his and what’s his is yours. Unlike before, financial decisions made by either one of you will have an impact on the other. So, sit down with your spouse or partner to review your budget at least twice a year, if not more regularly. Don’t think of it as an exercise to curb spending but, instead, a discussion about spending priorities. Then, make sure that you’re funneling money accordingly.  As always, try to stick to the 50/30/20 rule for spending and saving. Maintaining separate bank accounts for your discretionary funds will still provide the freedom to “do you” without feeling guilty or disrupting the family budget. Even better, it will allow for just enough secrecy to surprise (or be surprised!) with a great gift.

Prefer keeping a Venmo-only relationship when you’re married or opening a joint bank account right away? There is no right or wrong way to divvy up (or combine) your finances. Whatever approach you choose, keep these tips in mind for a financially healthy partnership:

  • Define shared goals and priorities;
  • Touch base on your budget a few times a year to make sure you are staying on track with your shared plan; and

Be open and honest (no hiding purchases in your car!)